During his four seasons as Texas A&M coach, Mark Turgeon has proven he can blunt with virtually any assessment.
After his team fell 70-58 against Texas in the semifinals of the Big 12 tournament, Turgeon was well aware the Aggies lost three times to the Longhorns and also tumbled against league champion Kansas. All four of those setbacks, against the two top teams in the league, were decided by double digits.
"For us to get to where we want to be as a program and where we think we belong, we have to beat a team like Kansas or Texas," Turgeon said. "We've got to play 40 minutes, not 37 or 32 or whatever we've done."
With a 25-8 record, the Aggies were issued a No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament and will meet Florida State (21-10) on March 18 in Chicago as part of the Southwest Regional.
All in all, the job done by Turgeon molding A&M into a third-place finisher in the Big 12 was remarkable. The Aggies lack high-profile recruits and were rocked by the death last spring of Tobi Oyedeji, a blue-chip prospect who was killed in a tragic car wreck.
Still, Turgeon found a way to get yet another team to commit to staunch defensive principles while usually executing offensively for high-percentage shots. Texas A&M allows 61 points on average. Their 44.5 percent accuracy from the field is an indicator of their lack of offensive might, which requires that different players step up on given nights.
Forward Khris Middleton was often that player. He is the only Aggie to rank among the top 20 scorers in the Big 12, carrying a 14.3-point average. Late in the season, however, conference rivals began keying on the 6-7 sophomore and he struggled to find looks or create openings. Two other forwards, Nathan Walkup and David Loubeau, can contribute, especially on the offensive glass, yet both were inconsistent.
The same was true of the backcourt. B.J. Holmes is a long-range specialist, making 49 3-pointers on 41.9 percent accuracy, though the Aggies have no guards who are consistent threats off penetration.
Sound gloomy? Well, Turgeon gets his team to thrive on low expectations. The Aggies were picked sixth in the Big 12 preseason poll. They finished third, largely off sound defense, yet no players were selected to the conference's all-defensive team. That can be used as incentive, though it only goes so far.
"Everyone has an edge, a chip on their shoulder," Holmes said.
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